Now Sunlight is the Fuel for powering Boats!

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Solar Sal departed Lockport N.Y carrying 4 tons of cargo in October.  It reached  Cascades Tissue Group’s Mechanicville facility in New  York, 300 miles away.  It is the first-ever cargo transported across the Erie Canal powered exclusively by the sun, its solar arrays and the storage capacity of its onboard batteries.  Professor-emeritus David Borton of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute demonstrated how the vessel could proceed solely on just the power from available sunlight.

The boat performed well, despite significant overcast and rain for several days.  She easily reached her top speed of 7 knots and in direct sunlight could sustain a 5 knot cruising speed (same as commercial tugs travel in the canals) using only 4kW of power.

The vessel actually runs at its peak performance using only half power. On board batteries guarantee an additional 50 mile run after dark.  Solar Sal theoretically has no limits for canal usage. Since the solar arrays can deliver 5kW on a really nice day, a reasonable speed can be achieved while more energy flows into the boat’s batteries than it is using – in essence the boat is refueling while underway.  Given the nature of their endurance run, the inclement weather required slower speeds to achieve the same effect, but crossing Oneida Lake’s 20 mile length, Solar Sal’s gauges indicated that they were indeed taking on more “fuel” than being consumed by its twin Torqueedo electric motors to do the crossing – this is a very unusual powerboat, indeed!

Sal is the name of the mule immortalised in the 1905 song “Low Bridge” after Erie Canal barge traffic moved from mule power to engines.

Source: MHL News